Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Environment and Biodiversity spokesperson
After a full year of denying the Westbury Reserve has any environmental values, it was welcome to hear Premier Peter Gutwein finally recognise this site has “sensitive natural values” in Parliament today. It is a great pity he is still refusing to protect them.
On 24 June 2020, in response to a question from the Greens, the Premier stated this site “does not contain the values for which it was originally purchased”. Mr Gutwein also said it was “not a reserve,” and Corrections Minister, Elise Archer stated there were no records of threatened wildlife on the reserve.*
A year on, in Parliament today, the Premier attempted to reassure Tasmanians the “sensitive natural values” of Westbury Reserve wouldn’t be impacted by imminent geotechnical drilling.
This is highly questionable claim in its own right, given the impact of heavy machinery on delicate, threatened ground plants. It also begs the question of how a prison could be built at this location without impacting those same - now acknowledged - environmental values.
The fact is, it’s impossible to build a massive, maximum security prison on Westbury Reserve, inclusive of fire breaks, without having a serious impact on the threatened flora and fauna that have been documented there.
The Federal Government’s Environment Department has called, for years, on the Tasmanian Government to honour its contractual obligations and provide legal protection of this reserve in perpetuity. Members of the community have also highlighted the State Government’s obligation to protect this reserve.
The Liberals must stop trying to spin their way out of the political mess they’ve created in selecting Westbury Reserve as their preferred site to build a massive maximum security northern prison.
Now that Premier Gutwein has acknowledged the conservation values of this site, the only logical next step is for him to abandon Westbury Reserve as the location for the Northern Regional Prison.